The Hero Who Abandoned His Family

Christopher Closeup Podcast – Guest: Rita Cosby

Anyone who thinks they’ve got a family relationship that is beyond repair needs to consider the story Rita Cosby shares in her best-selling book, “Quiet Hero.” It was Christmas Eve, 1983, when the future Emmy Award-winning journalist and best-selling author heard her mother, Adda, and father, Richard, having an argument. Richard told them he was unhappy and was leaving the family.

The devastating news came out of nowhere for 19-year-old Rita, her brother and her Mom. To make it worse, Richard conveyed complete emotional detachment about his decision and basically cut himself off from his family from then on. Though Rita and her mother grew closer as a result, life was still difficult, especially when Adda Cosby was dying of cancer. Despite the unfairness of what was done to her, Adda continued to tell her daughter, “You must forgive your father. He went through some very difficult times.”

As Rita explained to me on Christopher Closeup, she had a feeling there was more to her father’s past after seeing many scars on his body during a camping trip when she was eight. Though she asked her mother about them, her response was simply, “We don’t talk about that.”

After Adda passed away, Rita and her brother were going through her belongings when they came across an old leather suitcase they’d never seen before. Inside, they found a rusty POW tag emblazoned with the words “Stalag IV B,” a red and white fighting armband covered with blood and dirt, and an identity card for a POW named Ryszard Kosobudzki. Rita’s investigative journalist instincts kicked in and she realized that these items belonged to her father, who had immigrated to the United States from Poland and Americanized his name many years before. She also decided that, as a Christian, she had to forgive him.

Rita contacted her father who was now in his eighties. He had watched her grow up through her television work on Fox News and “Inside Edition,” but was happy to reconnect with her in person after years apart. Though she had every reason to act resentfully toward him, Rita approached him from a place of love, of wanting to genuinely know the whole story of her father’s life.

Rita discovered that her father was 13 when World War II started in Poland in 1939 with the Nazis dropping bombs on Warsaw. The family tried to flee across the Romanian border, but then discovered the Russians were approaching Poland from that direction. Having been subjected to Russian brutality in the past, the family opted to take their chances with the Nazis. Richard soon joined the Polish resistance. Though he had an opportunity to be smuggled out of the country, he said, “I would rather die with friends than live with strangers.”

Rita believes it was her father’s mother who instilled him with this courage, faith and love of country. She says, “You weren’t allowed to practice religion. The Nazis were prohibiting [people] from exhibiting religious tendencies. But my father’s mother had a hidden altar in every single apartment they lived in, and every day got up and prayed. She said, ‘The Lord is protecting us, the Lord is going to save Poland. We must stand up on principle.’ That was the kind of home my father grew up in, and I think that’s what gave him this courage to fight for something so much bigger than himself.”

What Rita discovered next would shed a lot of light on her father’s unemotional departure from his family when she was young. Click the podcast link below for the full story – and read Part 2 here:

Christopher Closeup Podcast – Guest: Rita Cosby

About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.

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  • Barbara Moody

    Oh my goodness. This story is so familiar. My father, born 1926, from Poland, saw his uncles shot, his father taken to Birkenau, he was taken from the family and forced into the German military. He escaped and joined the British. The long-term results were divorce, abandonement, alcoholism…. In 1983 I went through the forgiveness process with my father and our relationship changed. I can’t wait to read this story. Thank you for sharing. Thank you so very much.

    • Tony Rossi

      You’re welcome, Barbara. I’m glad to hear your own relationship with your father turned out well.

  • Thomas R

    Impressive story. However, and I feel really churlish saying this, but Poland doesn’t have a Romanian border. Did it have one then?

    • Tony Rossi

      I looked it up and found Poland and Romania did share a border back then. Thanks for commenting.

  • Pingback: Rita Cosby and the Secrets of her Father « The Anchoress

  • Stephie B.

    So as long as you have had horrid things happen to you its OK to leave your wife who is dieing of cancer (and never speak to her again), and not contact your children, until they come looking for you.

    While I honor the fight Ms. Cosby’s father fought in his early life it does in no way wipe out, to me as a listener, the fact that he failed as a father, husband and a man.

    I applaud Ms. Cosby for her ability to forgive her father and wish her well in their relationship. However, from what I heard in the podcast he shows no remorse for his treatment of his wife, let alone all the years he was absent from his children. We, as a country, rightly despise John Edwards for his treatment of his wife. From this podcast I see no reason to celebrate Ms. Cosby’s father – he fought against the evil of the 20th centenary – Nazi Germany – as did many other brave men and women, then he left is wife and children without warning. Again I am happy for Ms. Cosby and her joy in her renewed relationship, however fact that her father was in a war that he survived by closing off his emotions does not make we want to admire his actions after the war.

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